When he took over as his team’s offensive play-caller in the offseason, Kansas coach David Beaty knew this was the risk.
A disaster game on offense, like KU’s 43-7 loss at Memphis on Saturday, was going to leave the coach open to a stronger dose of criticism.
“That starts with me,” Beaty said of his team’s offensive showing. “That’s not them kids’ fault. That’s me. That’s not them coaches’ fault. That’s me.
“I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to get a lot better, because obviously, what we’re doing right now is not working.”
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KU's biggest issue was six turnovers, something that hadn’t been done by a Big 12 school since 2014. Beaty himself admitted he wasn’t sure he’d been part of a game with that many giveaways.
“That’s a bunch,” Beaty said. “It just continued to happen throughout the day. That can’t happen.”
The errors offensively were frequent and egregious in the Jayhawks’ 39th straight loss away from Memorial Stadium.
While still using a two-quarterback system, Beaty watched as both of his signal-callers made mental mistakes. In the first quarter, Ryan Willis failed to secure possession on a scramble before fumbling it away.
“He put his helmet right on the ball, and it just kind of popped up,” Willis said. “I’ve got to be better in ball security, but in the game of football, those things happen. You’ve just got to learn from it, grow from it.”
Montell Cozart’s costliest gaffes came in the second quarter. He fumbled on one play when he dropped it after faking a shovel pass, then later lofted an errant throw across his body that was intercepted by defensive lineman Jonathan Wilson and returned 61 yards for a touchdown.
“We always talk about not putting the ball in jeopardy,” Beaty said. “It’s always a better option to live to play another down than it is to throw a ball up.”
KU — with a coach in Beaty who harps on the importance of turnovers each week — trailed 33-7 at halftime after giving it away four times to Memphis’ zero.
Take out the turnovers, and it still wouldn’t have been considered a great day for KU’s offense.
Outside of one long run — a 66-yard touchdown sprint from Khalil Herbert opened up by blocks from D’Andre Banks and Michael Zunica — Beaty’s version of the Air Raid never found a rhythm. Seven of the Jayhawks’ first-half drives went for seven yards or fewer, with only three possessions lasting longer than three plays.
The final numbers didn’t look much better. KU rushed for 121 yards (even with the 66-yard dash) and threw for 193 in a high-possession game.
As a whole, Beaty said he was disappointed with his team’s offense through three contests while pointing out he didn’t see anything wrong with what KU was doing schematically.
“It was really more mistakes than anything. Mistakes that — they’re inexcusable,” Beaty said. “It just requires more concentration and focus. That’s where you start. You start with concentration and focus.”
The Jayhawks had to reshuffle their offensive line because of injuries. Starting center Joe Gibson and right guard Mesa Ribordy were held out, which forced some position changes, even with tackle Jordan Shelley-Smith returning.
KU’s linemen struggled early with the transition. New center Jacob Bragg left some snaps low, which contributed to one lost fumble.
“It’s just something I have to get better at,” Bragg said. “We’ll watch it on film and see what happens. Three bad snaps is three snaps too many.”
Miscommunication also led to numerous Memphis blitzers being allowed to go untouched through the middle of the line toward KU quarterbacks.
The Jayhawks defense, for the second straight week, had to try to bail out the offense while often working with a short field. The results were mixed, as Memphis struck for an 84-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter but also was held to 13 points off KU’s six giveaways.
“I thought our defense did a nice job today. They did some really good things,” Beaty said. “They gave up some scores, but man the complexion of that game gets changed when turnovers happen where they did.”
KU’s quarterback rotation continued Saturday without a clear starter moving forward. Cozart completed 13 of 22 passes for 87 yards with two interceptions and a fumble, while Willis was 9-for-13 with 80 yards and a fumble of his own.
Beaty reiterated afterward that, despite the mistakes, Cozart was “not a guy we’re going to give up on.”
KU, 1-2, is off next week before playing its first Big 12 game at Texas Tech on Thursday, Sept. 29.
“I still think we’ve got a pretty good little football team,” Beaty said. “We’ve just got a lot of things we’re having to learn right now that we should already know, but we’re learning them on Saturday.”
MEMPHIS 43, KANSAS 7
TableStyle: SP-byperiodsCCI Template: SP-byperiods
MEM: A.Miller 84 pass from Ferguson (Elliott kick), 10:58
MEM: FG Elliott 41, 7:09
MEM: FG Elliott 42, 2:59
MEM: Dorceus 6 run (run failed), 13:56
KU: Herbert 66 run (Wyman kick), 12:43
MEM: Mayhue 6 pass from Ferguson (Elliott kick), 5:25
MEM: Wilson 61 interception return (Elliott kick), 1:36
MEM: FG Elliott 50, :41
MEM: Pollard 8 run (Elliott kick), 12:45
TableStyle: SP-footballstatsCCI Template: SP-footballstats
Time of Possession
RUSHING: Kansas, Herbert 6-74, Kinner 12-49, Cozart 4-12, Evans 2-1, Willis 5-(minus 2), Gonzales 1-(minus 3), (Team) 1-(minus 10). Memphis, Taylor 13-88, A.Miller 3-56, Pollard 5-40, Dorceus 7-27, Henderson 3-24, J.Stewart 5-15, Wallace 1-1, T.Tate 0-0, (Team) 3-(minus 20), Ferguson 7-(minus 26).
PASSING: Kansas, Willis 9-13-0-80, Cozart 13-22-2-87, Stanley 4-6-0-26. Memphis, Ferguson 15-24-0-189, J.Stewart 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: Kansas, Gonzales 6-44, Brewer 4-36, Patrick 4-6, Herbert 3-39, Hartzog 3-16, Kinner 2-30, Sims 2-15, Barbel 1-4, B.Johnson 1-3. Memphis, A.Miller 5-93, Mayhue 4-34, Taylor 2-21, Magnifico 1-15, Hurd 1-14, Oglesby 1-6, Montiel 1-6.
MISSED FIELD GOALS: Memphis, Elliott 39.